THE OFFICE OF THE
IN HIS On the Councils and the Churches, Luther lists the signs of the church's presence. Among these he includes the fact that the church has offices and calls men to fill them.1 Now Luther does list this particular sign in the fifth place. It is preceded by God's word, baptism, the Lord's Supper and the office of the keys. But precisely these four “healing powers” of the church make it necessary that the church, “the Christian holy people,” have offices and “servants of the church” who administer these saving remedies.2 Luther describes a double basis for the necessity and authority of this official ministry. On the one hand, he proceeds from the priesthood of all the baptized. By the power of the priesthood they are authorized and called to serve through the word and the sacrament. It would not, however, be possible for every member of the community to publicly administer the word and sacrament to the entire community. That would lead to a deplorable confusion.3 To avoid this the community must commit this public ministry to some one person who administers it “for the sake of and in the name of the church.” The necessity of and authority of this office is, however, “much more” derived from its institution by Christ. According to Ephesians 4:8–11 he has “given gifts to men” and appointed some to be apostles, prophets,
1WA 50, 632; PE 5, 275. Cf. W. Brunotte, Das geisllicbe Ami bei Luther
(Berlin: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1959.) H. Lieberg, Amt und Ordination
bei Luther und MeUnchthon (unpublished dissertation, University of Erlangen,
2WA 50, 632: PE 5, 275. WA 11, 411; PE 4. 79. WA 39II, 287.
3 “Otherwise, there might be a shameful confusion among the people of God.”
WA 12, 189; LW 40, 34. “For the whole group cannot do this but must either
themselves order someone or permit someone to do it. Otherwise what would
be the result if everyone wanted to preach or to administer the sacrament and
no one would give in to anyone else? One individual must be appointed and
he must do the preaching.” WA 50, 633; PE 5, 275 f.